Prosecutors Seek Removal of Judge on Drew Peterson case. They claim bias since he has previously sanctioned them for withholding exculpatory evidence. Will prosecutors get to handpick their judge?
(May 18) – Former police officer Drew Peterson pleaded not guilty Monday to killing his third wife, whose death was reclassified as a homicide after the suburban officer’s fourth wife disappeared.
A prosecution bid to change the judge in the proceeding stalled a defense plan to seek reduced bail for Peterson.
Peterson is accused of drowning Savio, who was found dead in a dry bathtub in 2004 with a gash on the back of her head. Her death was originally ruled an accident. But after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in 2007, Savio’s body was exhumed, and authorities reclassified her death as a homicide after an autopsy.
After his plea, prosecutors asked that Judge Richard Schoenstedt be removed from Peterson’s case, citing “grounds of prejudice against the state.”
In November, Schoenstedt dismissed felony gun charges against Peterson after Will County prosecutors refused to give the defense communications between Illinois State Police and the state’s attorney’s office. Those documents had led to Peterson’s arrest on the gun charges.
The defense who supports the judge, challenged the motion. A hearing on the issue was set for Thursday before another judge.
This move by the State of Illinois demonstrates how the balance of power has tilted towards prosecutors at the expense of judges.